Since 2013, Help Teaching has brought you our Top 100 Free Education Sites. We’re continually updating our list to provide you with the best resources. Not only can you find the top free sites for teaching math, science, English, and social studies, but we’ve also added some of our favorite computer science and coding sites, language sites, and this year we’ve also added our favorite homeschooling sites.
No time to go through the whole list? Just use “Quick Links” section to jump straight to the section that interests you and bookmark this article for a reference later.
10 Awesome Education Sites
Whatever the grade-level or subject area, these websites have something to offer. From high-quality lesson plans to entertaining games and educational videos, they represent some of the best educational websites in existence.
Code.org has gained recognition with its Hour of Code initiative. The website offers free, easy lessons to help kids learn some of the basics of coding. The lessons also help teach critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Google is something most teachers know about, but many haven’t taken the time to explore all of their awesome free resources for education. There are some fun activities too, such as Google Experiments where kids can create all kinds of unique simulations and games online.
FunBrain helps students learn through fun games related to math and reading. They’ll also find books and other entertaining resources.
Scholastic has developed a reputation for its high-quality educational books and materials and its website does not disappoint, offering lesson plans, interactive activities, and articles designed to help teachers and parents.
Gooru helps students take control of their own learning by providing them with information about how they learn best.
Edutopia focuses on helping educators grow. From articles and blogs from those working in the field to informational videos and classroom guides, educators in all areas of education will stay on top of the latest trends and find tips to help them improve.
DIY.org encourages kids to learn new skills. Teachers and parents can challenge them to set goals and complete tasks on the site.
Science Bob gets kids interested in science by providing experiments, research, Q&A, and other info all focused on science.
Teachers Pay Teachers isn’t technically a free site since teachers sell materials. However, there are plenty of free downloads on the site. You may find the perfect free worksheet, lesson lan, or classroom time-filler.
Ted-Ed goes beyond traditional Ted Talks by offering lessons to accompany many of those videos. In addition, you’ll find animated videos and resources for elementary,middle, and high school students too.
Every day, in classrooms around the world, kids are learning how to code. Coding is a valuable skill that helps teach kids to think logically and develop the critical thinking and reasoning skills they need for our increasingly technological world. These resources offer free coding activities for kids.
Code.org is home to the Hour of Code. In just an hour, kids can complete a fun coding game. There are many games to choose from, including those that feature popular characters kids love.
Tynker offers its own free Hour of Code activities and games for kids to enjoy.
CodeCombat is an online, multiplayer game that requires kids to write code to play.
Kodu Game Lab is a visual programming tool that kids can download to create games of their own.
CS Unplugged teaches the principles of coding, but not in the traditional way. The site offers a large selection of offline activities designed to help kids develop these critical thinking skills.
Find games and activities for early readers, as well as texts for advanced readers, in this collection of high-quality reading websites. In addition to these sites, Help Teaching offers a large collection of public domain and original reading passages organized by grade-level, word count, and Lexile level.
CommonLit contains a wealth of free fiction and non-fiction texts for use in the classroom. Texts are organized by grade-level and theme.
Media Literacy Clearinghouse introduces students to a new type of literacy – media literacy. With all of the new technology and messages appearing every day, it’s important for kids to be media literate.
Awesome Stories uses non-traditional reading materials, such as biographies and primary source texts, to get students learning through reading. Students can use the site to help with research and teachers can use the texts as part of lesson plans. Creating an account allows users to access audio versions of many of the titles as well, making it an ideal site for auditory learners and those with learning disabilities.
ReadWriteThink gets students to participate in critical thinking and reading activities through its lesson plans and interactive student resources.
Book Adventure is a free online reading program that provides students with incentives for reading.
Bookopolis is essentially a GoodReads for kids. The site allows students to read reviews written by their peers and helps them find the perfect book.
Whether students need an outlet for their creative writing or want to brush up on their grammar skills, one of these resources will get the job done.
ToonDoo gives kids a place to create their own cartoons and store them online. It features tons of clipart and other artistic effects to make the comics visually appealing.
Voki features animated characters that students can customize and manipulate to speak their words. It’s a great tool to help with creative thinking, writing, and storytelling.
Grammar Bytes tests students’ knowledge of grammar through simple multiple-choice activities and rewards them with cheesy virtual prizes.
Purdue OWL is an online writing lab from Purdue University that provides students, particularly those in high school and college, with everything they need to know about writing a paper, including grammar advice and paper formatting guides.
Teachers can find primary source documents and high-quality lesson plans, as well as discover ways to connect students to history, geography, government, and other areas of social studies online.
GeoGuessr tests kids’ geography skills. Using images from Google’s Street View, it plops players down in the middle of the street and asks them to figure out where they are.
National Archives: DocsTeach allows teachers to incorporate primary source documents and other historical texts into a variety of critical thinking and thought-mapping activities. Pre-made activities are also provided. Students can complete the activities online or through the DocsTeach app available for the iPad.
iCivics offers high-quality and engaging games for students to play while they learn about civics. Lesson plans help teachers incorporate the games in the classroom.
Sutori gives students the chance to create free interactive timelines and engage in collaborative learning.
What Was There? allows students to type in any city, state, or country to view an archive of historical photographs and other documents. It’s a unique way to help them learn about history.
Not all websites focus on elementary math skills. While many of these games do work well for elementary-age students, they also offer games and lesson plans for students tackling subjects such as algebra, geometry, and calculus.
Math is Fun is full of math resources for kids and teachers. It also includes an illustrated dictionary of math terms to help students understand difficult concepts.
Numberphile features short videos about numbers. They help kids explore complex math topics and make math more fun.
Math Games offers a large collection of math games and questions organized by grade-level and skill. It also includes a progress-tracking feature so teachers and parents can see what kids know.
AAA Math features online interactive math lessons for students in kindergarten through 8th grade.
Yummy Math connects math with the real world through timely news stories and other reading passages.
Math Forum offers online professional development opportunities and other resources to help math teachers improve their skills.
Help students understand science with this collection of videos, games, experiments, and creative science activities.
PhET features many engaging simulations to help kids learn difficult concepts in science and math.
Wonderopolis shows kids a wonder of the day, and then gives them a chance to test their knowledge or join in on a discussion related to that wonder. Kids will be surprised by all of the cool facts that they learn and they may spark some interesting discussions in the classroom.
Molecular Workbench contains hundreds of simulations, curriculum models, and assessments designed to improve the teaching of science.
Science Made Simple gives kids science experiment ideas and other science project topics. It also offers help when preparing for a science fair.
The Science Spot offers lesson plans, activities, and student examples from one teacher’s science classroom, as well as daily science trivia challenges and daily science starters.
BioDigital is a human visualization platform that allows students to explore the human body in really cool ways.
For even more science-specific resources, check out the Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science.
Art museums around the world have made it their mission to teach students about art. These websites introduce students to art theory, let them explore classic works of art, and even give them the chance to create art of their own.
Artsonia bills itself as the world’s largest kids art museum. All of the artwork has been created by kids and, while the site is free, parents can also purchase products featuring their kids’ artwork.
Artsology helps kids learn to appreciate the arts by providing them with the opportunity to play games, conduct investigations, and explore different forms of art.
NGAKids Art Zone allows kids to explore popular art movements, themes, and artists and offers guides to help teachers as well.
Tate Kids gives kids a chance to explore famous works of art, play art-related games, and even create their own works of art to add to their online gallery.
Encourage kids to think beyond One Direction and their other favorite artists and experience new types of music. Kids can learn about the symphony and classical music or even build their own musical skills by learning through ear training or playing instruments online.
Andrew & Polly is an indie children’s music duo that has created a podcast called Ear Snacks designed to help kids learn through music, sound, and unique experiences.
Classics for Kids regularly highlights famous composers and provides teachers with activities to use in the classroom.
KIDiddles has lyrics and audio files for over 2,000 kids songs for music teachers, or any teachers, to use in their classrooms.
Good Ear may not look like an awesome site, but it contains a lot in its simple design. This website provides virtual ear training to help serious student musicians learn to recognize the differences between notes.
Virtual Musical Instruments lets kids play instruments online. Instruments include the guitar, piano, pan flute, drums, and bongos.
Health and Safety
Health and safety are important to kids. Whether kids want to know more about keeping their bodies healthy or staying safe online, these websites have them covered.
KidsHealth is the top website for kids to learn about their bodies and their health. It features easy-to-read articles and kid-friendly graphics to help kids learn about a whole host of topics related to health and safety.
CDC BAM! focuses on teaching kids about their bodies. BAM stands for body and mind and all of the resources on the site help kids learn more about their bodies and keeping their minds sharp.
StopBullying.gov helps prevent bullying in all forms by providing teachers, parents, and students with resources to educate them about bullying and let them know what to do when bullying occurs.
PE Central is a physical education teacher’s ultimate resource. It includes lesson plans, assessment ideas, and other resources.
Don’t forget about your younger learners too. Many websites, including our own Early Education collection, offer games and activities designed to help toddlers and preschoolers build their basic skills.
Preschool Express is full of crafts, activities, bulletin board designs, and finger plays for early education teachers and parents to use with kids.
Starfall promotes beginning reading and number skills with fun stories and activities.
Funbrain Jr. brings the fun and quality of Funbrain to a younger audience with its early learning games.
Songs for Teaching offers a large selection of fun songs to help teach preschool students.
Super Simple Learning’s resource section includes free flashcards, coloring pages, worksheets, and other resources for children, teachers, and parents.
Kids love to play games online. Why not encourage the practice by introducing them to some fun educational games websites? They’ll have fun and you’ll know they’re learning.
Arcademic Skill Builders offers a series of racing games for kids focused on math and ELA skills. Best of all, many of the games are multiplayer so kids can create rooms and play against their friends.
Quizalize lets teachers turn content into fun quiz games for students. It’s free to create quizzes, but teachers can also buy inexpensive quizzes from other teachers in the marketplace.
Cool Math Games is the ultimate site for kids who want to play math-oriented games. These arcade-style games are a lot of fun and many accompany the lessons found on the site.
Primary Games has a lot of educational games for kids to play mixed in with some “just for fun” games too. All of the games are kid-friendly.
Games for Change gets kids thinking about problem-solving and social issues by providing them with unique games to play. Many of the games help kids solve world problems or introduce them to social issues.
It’s important to keep up with the news. These websites cover the latest education news and also provide kid-friendly news sites to use with students.
Education World’s main page highlights the latest news in the world of education, including interesting research and controversy.
Education Week publishes a weekly newspaper all about education. Its website highlights many of those stories so you can access them for free.
Smithsonian TweenTribune features unique news stories for kids. Stories are organized by Lexile level and cover topics related to kids’ interests.
Time for Kids gives students and teachers access to many of the articles from Time for Kids magazine, even if they don’t subscribe. Stories focuses on world news stories and pop culture.
DOGO News promotes “fodder for young minds” by sharing unique news stories, including stories of people doing good around the world.
With the introduction of open courseware and TED talks, educating yourself online has never been easier. Find access to actual college courses and learn what you want to know from the experts in the field. At HelpTeaching, we have launched our own line of online K-12 lessons that students can use for self-directed learning.
TED features videos and other resources from some of the world’s greatest leaders, innovators, and thinkers. If you want to learn more about a particular field, chances are there’s an expert talking about it.
Khan Academy offers free online courses in a wide variety of subjects. It offers the most content in math, but also has courses in science, economics, test prep, and more.
Open Education Consortium allows you to search for open courses around the world. It also provides news on the open courseware movement.
MIT OpenCourseWare gives you access to courses from one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges.
Coursera helps you find and sign up to take free online courses from some of the world’s top universities and other experts.
Youtube has been around for a long time, but that only supports its awesomeness. You’ll find a lot of video tutorials on everything from fixing a car to learning how to beat a difficult level on Angry Birds. Don’t forget to check out Help Teaching’s YouTube channel with online lessons too.
For more resources, don’t forget to check out the Ultimate Guide to Self-Learning for Kids and the Ultimate Guide to Self-Learning for Teens and Adults.
Homework Help and Study Skills
For general homework questions and help studying for that big test, students should check out this collection of websites. Teachers will also find study skills lessons to go over with students in class.
HomeworkSpot provides students with links, resources, games, and reference materials to help them build their skills and complete their homework.
Fact Monster Homework Center connects kids with reference materials and tools to help them successfully complete their homework.
Shmoop offers homework help, literature guides, and a ton of other resources for students. The site’s writers incorporate a lot of humor in their writing too, making the site incredibly entertaining.
Howtostudy.org features articles on different study skills and test-taking strategies. There’s even a subject-based “How to Write” section to help students learn how to write all kinds of informational texts.
Don’t forget Help Teaching’s Study Skills and Strategies worksheets either!
Lesson planning can be time consuming, but with high-quality pre-created lesson plans, lesson plan templates, and a place to store their lesson plans, teachers can simplify the process.
The Differentiator provides teachers with lesson plan ideas to help them incorporate higher-order thinking skills, change up the products students create, and add to the resources they use. This helps ensure teachers aren’t presenting the same lessons all the time and that they reach students in many different ways.
ShareMyLesson offers lesson plans and other resources shared by teachers, educators, and educational companies around the world.
If teachers want students to learn, they must have good classroom management. These resources help keep students in control and encourage behavior that promotes learning.
ClassDojo is a classroom management system that allows teachers to set goals for students, track their progress, and reward them for that progress. Parents can also access reports to see how their children are doing.
Remind gives teachers a free, easy, and safe way to share important information with parents and students via text message. All phone numbers are kept private and parents must opt-in to receive messages.
BouncyBalls is an online game where the noise level makes the balls bounce. The more balls bouncing, the noisier the classroom is, reminding students to quiet down and focus on their work.
NEA Classroom Management offers a classroom management survival guide, as well as articles and resources to help with specific areas of classroom management.
Super Teachers Tools contains free resources such as seating chart makers and countdown timers that can help teachers implement solid classroom management strategies.
Whether students are looking to learn a foreign language or improve their English language skills, these sites are designed to help.
Internet Polyglot offers free videos, games, and other resources to help language learners memorize words in a new language. It also offers over 4,000 vocabulary lessons.
Busy Teacher features thousands of articles, worksheets, slideshow presentations, and other resources designed to help English language learners and teachers. All resources are available to view and download for free.
Google Translate is a free translation service provided by Google. You can translate a few words at a time or a whole document. While not 100% accurate, it can be a good place for language learners to start.
Open Culture contains a collection of the best free language learning courses and resources online.
Homeschool curriculum can be expensive. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources out there to help offset the cost. You’ll also find lots of tips, tricks, and other resources to help make your hoeschooling journey successful.
Homeschool.com bills itself as the #1 resource for homeschooling and with good reason. The website is full or articles about homeschooling, local homeschooler groups and even free curriculum and homeschool mom planner.
Beestar offers online elementary math and reading exercises. With a free account, kids can access a set number of free worksheets a day. There are also competitions kids can enter for a small fee.
Brainly gives students a place to ask questions and get answers. Think of it as a moderated Reddit or Yahoo! Answers for kids and teens. Most of the content on the site is free, although some verified answers require a subscription.
CK-12 is a platform that offers free online textbooks and resources for students and teachers. Why pay for curriculum when you can get free, customized resources online?
Hillsdale College provides free online courses to help people learn more about the principles of American democracy and study some of the authors and artists who were part of America’s foundation.
There are some skills that aren’t taught in high school, but they’re extremely important for students to learn. These sites help students gain these essential skills.
Practical Money Skills bills itself as a site that offers financial education for everyone. The site includes free articles and learning modules for students, lesson plans for teachers, and a host of fun games, including many related to athletics.
Gen i Revolution offers free personal finance and economics education for students through the form of a game. Students go through real-life scenarios and use the selection of characters and skills available to them to set things right in the financial world of the game.
Everyday Life from GCF Learn Free features multiple interactive tutorials designed to take students through everyday life activities, including work shills and getting around town.
Overcoming Obstacles is a free life skills curriculum for students in grades K-12. Their resources include strategies for teaching social and emotional skills. Teachers and parents must register for a free account to access the curriculum.
For more resources, check out Help Teaching’s selection of free life and money skills worksheets.
Did you favorite sites make the list? If not, share them in the comments. Maybe they’ll make 2019’s list of the 100 Best Free Education Sites. Remember to check out Help Teaching for all of your worksheet and printable needs too.
Teachers work a lot. In fact, many teachers work well beyond their contracted hours grading papers, planning lessons, and overseeing extracurricular activities. Add in trying to spend time with a spouse or raise children and it becomes clear that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. For teachers, anything that can save a little time can be life-changing. If you find yourself giving up sleep or foregoing fun activities to get classroom work done, try some of the tips below to gain a little more margin in your life.
Embrace the 40 Hour Workweek
Many teachers have taken on Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek which focuses on strategies to help keep school at school and allows teachers to spend more time with their families and friends. There’s always a waitlist to join the latest cohort, but you don’t have to officially join the movement to try it out. Look for Facebook groups and blogs from teachers who have taken on the challenge and start by implementing some of their strategies.
The more routines you have in place in your classroom and at home, the less time you have to spend planning. For example, maybe you always teacher grammar on Wednesdays or your students spend every Friday brushing up on their math facts. At home, you can plan to eat pizza every Friday or tacos every Tuesday and be sure to always have the ingredients on hand (or a delivery app on your phone) ready to go.
Stop Reinventing the Wheel
While it’s true that every group of students has different needs, that doesn’t mean that you need to write an entirely new curriculum every year. If you have lessons that have consistently worked well, keep using them rather than trying to come up with something fun and new. And remember that you don’t have to have an exciting, fun lesson every day. In fact, spacing out the exciting lessons and filling the time in between with practice opportunities and reinforcement can help improve student retention.
Additionally, don’t feel like you have to create everything yourself. Did you see the perfect rubric or slideshow presentation online? Use it. If you find the perfect resource on TeachersPayTeachers, buy it. You don’t have to feel bad because you didn’t create it yourself. Sites like HelpTeaching.com exist to help teachers save time by providing worksheets, video lessons, and other activities for their classrooms.
Get Digital Assistance
In today’s digital world there are tons of resources designed to save teachers time. You can keep up with an entire class of parents at once by using a service like Remind or quickly log behavior issues (positive and negative) with Class Dojo. There are also numerous Word, Excel, and Google templates designed to make record-keeping easier.
If you teach online for a service like VIPKid or have to keep detailed notes about your students and their performance, consider signing up for a service like Feedback Panda. Their templates make it easy to record student progress, write detailed course notes, and quickly review critical information about students.
Pay Attention to When and What You Grade
How many times have you brought a bag of papers home to grade only to take it back the next day with the papers ungraded? Even when teachers don’t look at the work they bring home, they spend a lot of time thinking about it. If you’re feeling stressed or have other things to get done, just leave the work at school. Then you don’t have to spend time worrying that you should be grading them because it’s not an option. Additionally, try to set due dates for larger assignments at times when you know you’ll be able to get the grading done and don’t be afraid to extend a due date if your week is filling up. Your students likely won’t complain about the extra time to get the work done.
Along with looking at when you grade, think about what you grade. Do you really need to grade every paper? If the students’ quality of work wasn’t up to par, consider chucking the assignment and trying again. If something was just for practice or participation, slap a check mark on it and hand it back, only adding comments if there are serious issues. If you give a writing assignment, rather than marking every error, provide more general feedback at the end. You can also look for ways to give students feedback on their work in class rather than offering a formal grade or implement peer grading for assignments that carry a lower weight.
Learn to Say No
It’s definitely easier said than done, but knowing your limits and learning how to say no can help you free up time in your schedule. Does a parent want you to tutor a student after school? Maybe you can suggest some resources for the student to review at home instead. Does your principal need someone to chair another committee? Maybe you can suggest a colleague who’d be better suited for the job. Do your kids want you to cart them around to activity after activity? Maybe you can have them choose one activity every 6 weeks or ask their friends’ parents to help carpool so you don’t have to be responsible for drop off and pick up every time.
Take Care of Yourself
Even though self-care takes time, taking time to take care of yourself can actually add more time to your schedule. When you are tired and stressed, you work at a slower pace and likely don’t think as clearly. Taking a few hours every week to focus on relaxing and recharging can make it easier to get everything on your list done without feeling overwhelmed.
The problem with Instagram and Pinterest is they can make teachers feel like they have to have the perfect classroom, the perfect lesson, the perfect… everything. At the end of the day, your students and loved ones don’t care if you had a Pinterest-worthy lesson or the most Instagrammable classroom decor. They just want someone who loves and cares about them. So if you don’t have a classroom full of color-coordinated flexible seating, your walls aren’t covered with your professionally designed anchor charts, and you don’t have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, it’s okay.* That’s probably not what your students will remember anyway.
*And if you can maintain that Pinterest-worthy classroom, have a Cricut-made t-shirt for every occasion, or create anchor charts that show amazing graphic design skill, there’s nothing wrong with that either as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of taking care of you.
Whether you’re a new teacher entering the classroom for the first time or a veteran teacher with experience to spare, we’re all looking for ways to improve our performance and better serve our students. Setting goals for development before the year begins enables you to track your evolution and share your progress with colleagues.
1. Keep a reflective journal
All teachers grudgingly completed reflections while studying in college and most have long since stopped the practice. Reflecting on a method, assignment, or lesson can do wonders for how you handle a similar situation later in the year or in your career. Even though we think we’ve seen it all, a written account of your thoughts at that precise moment carries more weight than you think.
2. Share best practices
Professional development never gives us enough time to network with colleagues, but sharing best practices can be the best way to develop your talent and skill for teaching. Sharing worksheets, methods, or projects can have an immediate impact on how you deliver your information and how your students respond to it.
3. Observe colleagues
Sometimes you just have to be there. Sitting and watching another teacher deliver a lesson is the best way to see what other methods work and how you can adapt them to fit your style.
4. Use social media for new ideas
Social media isn’t just for sharing your vacation pictures; it can also connect you to teachers and ideas from around the world. Services like Diigo, Classroom 2.0, and TeachAde provide a platform for sharing methods, links, and advice with qualified colleagues.
5. Go for training
With budgets shrinking all over, opportunities for training have decreased, but if you’re offered the chance to spend a day learning new methods or receiving new – and often free – resources, take it! The one day of teaching you miss will be repaid tenfold by the experience and wisdom you gain.
Taking the time to be a better teacher isn’t as hard as it seems. Use these suggestions as a guide to starting the year off on a good note.
Typically, it’s the students who receive the rules on the first day of school. However, there are some rules teachers should follow too. Following these rules on the first day of school and throughout the school year can help ensure success.
1. Be Welcoming
Many veteran teachers live by outdated axioms, such as “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving!” and “It’s easier to go from mean to nice than from nice to mean!” While these nuggets of wisdom contain some truth, experience has shown that most students – even those with behavior issues – benefit from a warm, welcoming environment, not one based on obsolete clichés. Greet your students as they come into your classroom. Make them feel comfortable in their new, unfamiliar surroundings. Allow them to take ownership of the setting by referring to it as “our classroom.” A strong presence in the classroom can take back momentum at a moment’s notice, even if you smile at your class before the leaves on the trees change color.
2. Be Specific
Many students won’t remember much of what you say on the first day of school and parents will sign your contract without giving it a second look. Despite those unfortunate truths, it is imperative that you design your syllabus or contract with specific information and properly enforce whatever you distribute to students and parents. If you weigh your grading components differently, break it down on paper. If there are stages to your behavior modification plan, list the steps you will take to correct misbehavior. If you give formal assessments on regular days, create a calendar. These simple steps will keep your students and their parents informed, and serve as evidence should your methods be questioned by an administrator or parent.
3. Be Prepared
Just because it’s the first day of school, it doesn’t mean you should improvise your lesson. Have the entire period planned out with ice breakers, activities, and, yes, even class work. Setting the tone on the first day doesn’t mean being strict and insensitive (see rule #1), but it does mean being consistent and organized. Students will remember if you ended class too early, and that can set a precedent that is hard to shake.
4. Be Collegial
Teachers often share the same students. These teachers likely meet as part of a team or to informally compare notes. If your schedule allows, it would be helpful to make an appearance in your colleague’s classroom during the first few days of school. This is a special show of support for someone whose skills you will rely upon for the next nine months. This united front of solidarity also help students see your educational interdependence. You will know the excuses, explanations, and issues from their other classes and you can use that information to better educate them.
5. Be Ready for Anything
A new school year and new students means a new set of unknowns. Never be surprised when something happens for the first time and always be prepared with a rational response to problems.
Whether it’s your first day of teaching or you’re a veteran of the back to school grind, following these five simple rules can make your first day a walk in the park and set the tone for a prosperous year of learning. Read Back to School Tips for Teachers for more advice on a great start of the new school year.
It’s back-to-school time and we know you’re determined to start the year off right. But whether you’re a new or veteran teacher, you still need some time to stop and get back into the back-to-school frame of mind. Armed with these 10 tips, the new school year is bound to be a success.
1. This Year is Not Last Year
Whether your last year of teaching was great or terrible, head into this school year knowing that it will be different. That doesn’t mean that if you had a great year last year, you won’t have a great year this year. It just means you need to look at the year with fresh eyes. You will have different students with different interests and unique personalities. What worked for your students last year may not work this year and ideas that flopped last year may be this year’s biggest successes.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “This year will be a breeze. I’ll just use the same lesson plans, same activities and same materials I used last year.” Instead, keep what you did last year as a backup, but go into the school year prepared to start over focused on a new group of students and their individual needs.
2. Get to Know Your Students
It takes time to get to know your students. Plan to spend a lot of time getting to know your students during the first week of school. This involves more than just learning their names. Find out their learning styles, what their interests are, and how they feel about the subject you teach. Create a few short tests or tasks to figure out where students are at so you know where to start the curriculum and to make sure no students are left behind if you’d planned to start much further ahead in the curriculum.
3. Make Students Feel Welcome
As you get to know your students, you should also make them feel welcome in your classroom. If you receive class rosters in advance, welcome students before they even step through your door by sending them a short letter or calling them and letting them know how excited you are to have them in your class. For a smaller class, post students’ names around the room or give students a special gift on the first day of school. Greet every student with a smile and a handshake as they walk in the door and let them know that it is going to be a great year.
4. Communicate with Parents
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get parents on your side. You may not have many discipline problems during the first week of school, but you can still make phone calls or send e-mails to parents. During the first two weeks of school, make it a point to contact every student’s parent at least once to share something positive. This will let parents know that you truly care about their children and that not every phone call from the school will be for something bad. Once students get wind that you contact parents for positives, they may be more motivated to behave in the hopes that they get another good phone call home.
5. Set the Tone
The first few days of school are usually a little more relaxed, but they are also important days for teachers to use to set the tone for the rest of the school year. In the midst of ice-breakers and administrative tasks, make sure students are clear about the rules and expectations for your classroom and start following those rules from day one. While you may not want to give homework on the first day, students should also start learning on day one. Plan an activity to introduce students to what you will be teaching and help them understand that learning is the main focus of your classroom.
6. Be Organized
If you are not organized at the beginning of the school year, it will be hard to get organized once the school year begins. Set up any folders, bins and other systems of organization you plan to use during the school year. Figure out how you will take attendance, collect and hand back student work, store extra copies of handouts and organize forms and other professional papers.
You can also get organized digitally. Create folders on your computer for each class period or to hold lesson plans and resources for specific units. Set up accounts for students on any websites you plan to use and make sure you remember your passwords for any accounts you plan to access regularly. Clean up your website and make sure your gradebook is ready to go. If you already have student and parent e-mail addresses, you can also make sure they are easily accessible in the computer.
7. Stock Up on Supplies
Even though students have school supply lists, chances are many of them will forget their supplies. Back-to-school time is the perfect time to stock up on pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and other materials you may need throughout the school year. Many large discount stores offer deep discounts on these items during the weeks leading up to the start of school. While it may seem crazy to buy 100 notebooks or 1000 pencils at once, in the middle of the school year you will love that you do not have to pay full-price to restock these items in your classroom.
8. Get Ahead While You Have Time
The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to get ahead. While you cannot plan detailed lessons before you get to know your students, you can determine the general sequence of what you plan to teach and do some lesson planning in advance. You can also start to fill out the paperwork for a grant you know you’ll want to apply for, and make initial contacts for any field trips you know you are going to take. As you are going through your to-do list or organizing your classroom, if you start to set something aside to do later, stop and ask yourself if there is any part of it you can do now in order to make it easier to finish up later.
9. Ease into It
Don’t throw yourself into the new school year. Instead, ease into it. If you can, gradually start setting your alarm earlier and earlier so it’s not so much of a shock on the first day of school. Instead of rushing to get everything done two or three days before school starts, take a few hours each day a week or two before school starts and get a little bit of prepping done here and there. That large essay or massive homework assignment you want to give students can wait too. Instead of arming yourself with loads of papers to grade the first week of school, give a smaller assignment that you can check in class or have students take online. If students had a summer assignment to complete, check off those who brought it in and then give them a week to polish it, giving you some time to adjust to the new school year before being swamped with projects to grade.
10. Think Positive
Maybe you have to teach seven out of eight periods a day. Maybe you were saddled with multiple preps. Maybe your class roster contains some of the most notorious discipline problems in the school. Maybe your school performed poorly last year and the pressure is on to do well this year. Whatever issues you may face this school year, you must go into the year thinking positive.
Yes, you may have a full load of classes, but you get to influence that many more students. Prepping for multiple classes is hard, but at least you don’t have to teach the same thing all day. Those discipline problems are going to test your patience, but you’re guaranteed not to have a dull moment and maybe you’ll actually turn them around. And those test scores? With your amazing teaching skills, of course they’re going to go up.
You can be organized, have a cabinet full of supplies, and know exactly what to do during the first week of school, but if you have a negative attitude, none of it will matter. Whether this is your first year of teaching or your last year before you get to enjoy retirement, think positive. This school year will be successful and, if it’s not, it’ll be over in around 180 days. Then you’ll get to start again.
You can always ease students into the learning process with Back-to-School worksheets from HelpTeaching.